When butter replaces olive oil, meat substitutes fish.
Traditionally, Milanese cuisine equates to the rich and heavy. Butter replaces olive oil, meat substitutes fish. You want the ultimate leading man at a dinner table? Hello beef, chicken, and Miss. Piggy.
Why is Milanese cuisine so rich, you may ask? There’s a reason to such a word choice. Milan was always a city full of bourgeoisies, leaving church and politics to Rome thus Milanese cuisine traditionally emanates luxury. Saffron in risotto, cotoletta made of veal. Then combined with a modern spin, each restaurant below is led by a creative team presenting traditional dishes with exciting new perspectives. Making Milan on par with NYC when it comes to mixing the old and the new.
Here are six restaurants to put on your list, if you’re aiming for something a bit contemporary with a whole lotta traditional.
1. U Barba – Ligurian cuisine.
Neighborhood: Corso Lodi
Liguria is tucked between the mountains with rich soils and the Mediterranean sea, hence its cuisine is considered one of the best in Italy. Since herbs lavishly prosper in this region, you’ll notice tons of aromatic garnish used in dishes, including: sage, basil, laurel, rosemary, sweet marjoram, fennel…etc. U Barba is known for its Genovese/Ligurian menu with: cheese focaccia, rabbit alla ligure, and lots of homemade pasta. Afterwards, you can work off the carbs by playing outside on two sand lanes.
2. Del Toro Kitchen – Simple & elegant.
Neighborhood: 5 Vie
In the heart of Milan, Del Toro Kitchen, or Cucina Del Toro serves up very simple yet tasty Milanese dishes without too much fuss. The chef revisits Italian classics, including: gnocchi, lasagne, pig’s cheek, salted codfish…and more. The wine cellar is also raved by adoring fans. The restaurant is an old-fashioned Milanese-style dining room with China lamps and graniglia floors.
3. Rebelot – Experimental small plates.
Situated in the trendy Navigil zone, Rebelot is an authentic dining experience where “sharing is caring” truly comes to life. Small dishes made from seasonal recipes, Rebelot is the younger sister of the Michelin-starred Al Pont de Ferr. Cocktails on the river, can you say no on any delightful Italian day or night?
4. Drogheria Milanese – Don’t miss the secret drinking den behind the cupboard downstairs.
This modern and vibrant bistro is the fusion of American cafe, French brasserie and Italian gastropub where hamburgers and pasta plates kinda-sorta go together. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet during the day, don’t come here. You’ll encounter writers and journalists who like to hang out at Drogheria Milanese, but more so for a buzzing social scene rather than an introspect hour. This is casual, but delish.
5. LùBar – Sicilian & stylish.
Neighborhood: PAC art gallery
In Milan, it’s not rare to enter hospitality grounds that bear a certain designer’s name. LùBar belongs to designer Luisa Beccaria, here’s a Sicilian restaurant she opened with three of her five children: Lucilla, Lucrezia and Ludovico. Situated in parts of Galleria d’Arte Moderna, LùBar is known for its “Slow Street Food” with a posh crowd and live music in the background.
Tip! Make sure to get the Spritz cocktail (a Milanese favorite,) LùBar serves it with Amara, a Sicilian blood orange liqueur, rather than the usual Campari or Aperol. If Spritz isn’t your deal (really?!) then order the Bloody Mary which is made with Sicilian tomato passata (sauce.)
6. Dry – Pizzeria & cocktail bar.
Neighborhood: Porta Venezia, Brera.
If you’re in the mood for a darn good pizza, there are two Dry locations: Porta Venezia and near Brera. The irony of naming a cocktail bar “Dry” clearly refers to the Prohibition era when alcohol was banned. In 2013, Dry was shown only to the press and close friends via “blind” events during Salone de Mobile. In the spirit of an American-style speakeasy, Dry was the best hidden secret in Milano. Now, it’s known for beautiful mixology, along with gourmet classics: pizza and fococce, prepared in artisan wood oven from Naples for 48 hours.